Pledge of Allegiance: Use in Congress
Do Members of Congress say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag?
Yes. But only recently. The Senate has opened its daily session with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag since June 24, 1999. The House began reciting the Pledge as part of its daily session eleven years earlier in 1988.
The 11-year gap between the House and Senate’s practice ended when a New Hampshire constituent (the power of one!) brought the discrepancy between the House and Senate to the attention of then-Senator Bob Smith (R-NH).
Senator Smith then introduced a resolution to begin the practice in the Senate. The resolution to amend the Standing Rules of the Senate and institute a daily Pledge was adopted by unanimous consent of the Senate on June 23, 1999. Since then, the Pledge of Allegiance has been recited daily in the Senate by its Presiding Officer, or another Senator designated for that purpose.
Presidential politics in 1988 precipitated the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in the House. During the 1988 campaign, candidate George Bush criticized candidate Michael Dukakis for his veto of a Massachusetts state bill to require the Pledge of Allegiance in all public schools in that state. House Republicans (then in the minority) surprised their chamber by offering a privileged resolution to require that each House day commence with the Pledge.
Then-Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX) came to the floor and chastised Republicans for using the Pledge of Allegiance to make a partisan point, saying, "I think it is very important that all of us recognize that the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag is something intended to unite us, not intended to divide us." However, with electoral sensitivities in mind, Speaker Wright then went on to announce he would call upon the chairman of the House Veterans' Committee, then-Representative Sonny Montgomery (D-MS), to offer the Pledge when the House next met.
Rep. Montgomery recited the first Pledge of Allegiance on the House floor on September 13, 1988. The Speaker then decided the Pledge would start each House session from that day forward. He announced recognition would alternate between the two parties to keep the practice bi-partisan. When Republicans gained the majority in 1995, they amended the House rules for the 104th Congress, making the Pledge of Allegiance permanent.
The Pledge of Allegiance has had a few words altered over the years, the last change being the addition of the words "under God" in 1954. For more historical background on the Pledge of Allegiance, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
The Pledge of Allegiance was authored by Francis Bellamy in 1892 for a children's magazine he edited, known as "The Children's Companion." Bellamy lobbied President Benjamin Harrison to proclaim October 21 of that year a general holiday to commemorate the 400 year anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America. He envisioned flags flying over every schoolhouse in the country, and schoolchildren gathering to recite his pledge. President Harrison agreed, and Bellamy saw his dream realized.